Durham Students’ Union vote to uphold condemnation of Durham Union Society

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Durham Students’ Union (SU) has voted to uphold their condemnation of the Durham Union Society (the Union) in their latest Assembly meeting.

A motion, proposed by Theodore Stubbs, custodian of the Union’s bar, asked the SU Assembly to “end the Boycott of the Durham Union Society”, but did not pass after members voted on it.

In response to the vote, the Union expressed their disappointment to Palatinate, saying “we are confident about the progress we have made as a society in the past four years” and that “in time, it is our hope that the Students’ Union Assembly may reflect that view”.

The vote followed on from a motion in November 2020, where the SU’s Assembly, a student-led body representing the SU, voted 93% in favour to boycott the Union over “failures to combat discrimination” and failure to “prevent and effectively penalise incidents of racism/misogyny”.

We are confident about the progress we have made as a society in the past four years

Durham Union Society

The SU then resolved to “ban the Union from participating in our events” and “publicly separat[ed]” itself from the Union. This meant that the Union was unable to participate in the Durham Students’ Union Freshers’ Fair, until it was allowed back in September 2023.

The original motion to condemn the Union in 2020 came months after Palatinate released an investigation into “accusations of sustained malpractice and abuses of power within the Durham Union Society”. 

Since the boycott, the Durham Union Society have taken measures to improve procedures concerning preventing and penalising discriminatory behaviour, and are now seeking to reconcile their relationship with the SU. The motion states that the Union has established an “independent and confidential Complaints Panel and associated procedures.” 

In a statement to Palatinate, the Durham Union Society reiterated the changes they made to “encourage a culture of proactive reform.” The Union has established an Equalities Committee, which includes LGBT+, People of Colour, Disability, International Members, Women, and Low Income/State School (LISS) representatives, as well as created an EDI plan which is reviewed annually. The Equalities Officer is also now represented on the Union’s top executive committee. 

Since the boycott, the Durham Union Society have taken measures to improve procedures concerning preventing and penalising discriminatory behaviour, and are now seeking to reconcile their relationship with the SU.

“With greater engagement with historically underrepresented groups at the Union as well as a tougher policy on unacceptable behavior, the student body is responding positively to the Society’s direction of travel,” the Union claim.

Since their reforms, the Durham Union Society claim to have seen “engagement rise significantly” with the Epiphany term presidential election seeing the highest voter turnout since 2007. 

“We will continue to pursue a cordial and collaborative relationship with the Students’ Union where possible,” the Union told Palatinate. “We have striven to root out past failings and I hope the next year will demonstrate to the Students’ Union Assembly that the efforts we made have transformed the Union Society.”

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